While the ousted Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn currently roams Tokyo somewhat ‘free,’ a trial awaits him around mid-2019.
Prosecutors had made sure to hail down accusation after accusation upon him. Still, he insisted on his innocence throughout his arrest period, and even after he made it out.
Now, a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) seems to support an argument that’s pervaded the automotive industry since November: the timing of Ghosn’s arrest was by no means a coincidence.
Et tu, Nissan?
According to a source familiar with the matter, WSJ learned that Hiroto Saikawa, newly-instated CEO and President of Nissan, believed that “some of his executives had gathered evidence against Mr. Ghosn and given it to Japanese authorities with one goal in mind… They wanted to derail any possibility of a full combination of Nissan and Renault, which they feared Mr. Ghosn was pushing. The Nissan rebels feared their Japanese company would fall to French control.”
At the time, Nissan was in advanced talks with its partners the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance to cement a merger which would ultimately put Nissan at a disadvantage.
“Two Nissan executives, determined to halt further corporate integration, instigated a probe of Mr. Ghosn, chasing longtime rumors of wrongdoing, until they found evidence of alleged financial crimes to give prosecutors, according to the documents and people familiar with the investigation, WSJ continued.
What this indicates is that Nissan had long suspected Ghosn of financial misconduct, yet never acted on it – whatever that may imply.
After all is said and done, these executives working behind closed doors seem to have succeeded: merger talks are back to “square one,” as WSJ puts it.
According to a report from the Financial Times, Nissan’s board opposed Ghosn’s plan to merge Nissan and Renault—a plan that was set to materialize within months, according to the paper’s sources.
“The merger would have rendered the Renault-Nissan alliance ‘irreversible,’” the report continued. “The two companies already hold shares in one another—Renault owns 43% of Nissan and Nissan owns 15% of Renault, so the French firm has the upper hand.”
The suspicion that Nissan itself had plotted against Ghosn was not limited to Saikawa alone. A New York Times (NYT) interview with Ghosn’s family had revealed similar suspicions of a “coup.”
“The timing seems more than coincidental,” suggested one former top auto executive who has high-level ties with Nissan, CNBC reported.
Nissan, however, “believes the motive of whistleblowers isn’t relevant,” WSJ said. “The company’s investigation uncovered ‘substantial evidence of blatantly unethical conduct,’ said Nicholas Maxfield, a spokesman. The sole cause of this chain of events is the misconduct led by Ghosn.”
The story so far…
It’s been almost a month since Ghosn escaped the confines of solitary imprisonment.
All hope had seemed lost following extension after extension of his detainment, bringing to light the harshness of the strict Japanese justice system that is known for its 99% conviction rate.
More than 3 months after his arrest in November last year, however, Ghosn revealed the ace up his sleeve.
After assigning himself a new legal team, Ghosn was finally granted bail. Still, life has never been the same for him, and he was even denied from attending an important board meeting between the heads of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance on March 12th.
After the meeting had concluded, Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard, Renault Chief Executive Thierry Bollore, Nissan Motor Co. CEO Hiroto Saikawa, and Osamu Masuko, the chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., held a joint news conference where they announced the birth of a Ghosn-less alliance.
“The chief executives of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi have announced a new board to oversee the French-Japanese auto alliance, seeking a ‘new start’ for the partnership after the arrest and dismissal of Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn,” the Associated Press (AP) reported at the time.
As it currently stands, this chapter of the Ghosn drama ends with a win for Nissan. What Ghosn’s next move will be is anyone’s guess. It’ safe to say the once-champion of the Japanese automotive industry will fight tooth and nail to defend his honour and stature.